Choosing an independent secondary school is both a heart and head decision. Open days not only allow you to view the school site and facilities, but also to ask lots of questions to help inform your decision process. The Covid-19 pandemic means that schools are unable to run open days as normal, so many are running virtual open days. You may want to take part in a virtual open day and arrange a private tour of the school separately to give yourself the fullest picture.
Below are some of the things to consider whether you're visiting a school in person or virtually:
- Get to know the pupils
The pupils are the best source of the real truth about a school. Their point of view is often disarmingly honest and can help you get a feel for how fulfilled and happy pupils are.
- Class sizes
The ratio of teachers to pupils is essential. Make sure you gain some understanding of how big class sizes are. Normally in the independent sector, class sizes decrease as the pupils move through the school and specialise within GCSE and A Level subjects.
- Extra-curricular opportunities
Find out what other activities are available to pupils outside of the classroom. Extra-curricular opportunities enhance a young person's confidence and wellbeing. A high-quality independent school should offer a wide range of co-curricular activities to suit every child, whether they're sporty, musical, creative or adventurous.
- Online learning
During the Covid-19 pandemic we all experienced school closures. It is important to understand what the school has in place should this situation every occur again. Ask the school what the online learning provision was during lockdown and ask them how they have planned for the future should school closures happen again. Within the independent sector you should be expecting a full timetable of online lessons to be delivered in these circumstances as the schools should have the resources to deliver this.
- School communication
Gain an understanding of how effective the school's parent communications are. Do they have an app to view pupil reports, calendars, emails, events, sports fixtures and rewards? Keeping on top of all of these as separate pieces of communication is very challenging for parents, so it's worth checking that the school has a centralised system. It's also worth taking a look at the school's social media accounts to get a feel for what is going on at the school and how they communicate with the outside world.
- Don't judge just on exam results
As parents, we all want the best for our children. Of course, we want to choose a school which can help our children achieve their potential academically. But, it's important to look at the bigger picture. Try to understand whether a school is just a hothouse for results or whether it truly has the child's wellbeing at heart. The best-case scenario to find a school that helps your child fulfil their potential academically and that also nurtures their wellbeing and allows them to explore many opportunities and challenges. A child that emerges from school as a rounded individual is much more likely to achieve great things in adulthood.
- What subjects do they offer?
Gain an understanding of the breadth of subjects on offer at both GCSE and A Level. Some schools also enhance their subject offering with BTEC subjects. This gives your child options in the future to explore all of their areas of interest. After all, a child is much more likely to perform if they are studying subjects they are interested and engaged in.
- SEN support
Perhaps your child needs extra support with their learning. Use open days as an opportunity to explore what extra support a school offers. Some highly selective schools may not be able to support a child with special educational needs.
- Understand the Headteacher's ambitions for the school
The culture of a school comes from the very top. Take a look at what the Headteacher has to say for themselves and their ambitions for the future of the school. Their approach can be very telling and you are considering potentially a 7 year investment in sending your child to the school.
- Stance on wellbeing / pastoral
Investigate what the school's stance on bullying and pastoral care is. You should expect pastoral care via a tutor system or similar as a regular touch point to ensure your child is happy and coping well with life at school. Schools should also have a wellbeing policy and programme for their pupils.
Contact our admissions department to learn more about RHS firstname.lastname@example.org